Nerd "P

Technology is catching up with the Festival. Eddie Gibb speaks to an Internet surfer who has turned his obsession into a one-man show and (below) Ellie Carr finds out about computer-aided choreography.

he Geek Shall Inherit the Earth’ looks like becoming the headline writer’s joke that came true. King of the nerds is Bill Gates, a college computer programmer turned billion dollar stockholder in Microsoft, whose company became the tail that wagged IBM’s dog. But on a smaller scale, these kind of stories are repeated across the world with young men (and it invariably is men) turning a fascination for which they were labelled nerds into a lucrative enterprise. These are the guys who understand what the hell the info-age is all about.

The Net and Dan O’Brien (of whom more later) are both celebrating their 25th birthdays this year. The Internet you’ve read about already. It’s captured the imaginations of people who have never logged onto a computer, let alone cruised down the fast lane of the informa- tion highway. For cyberspace virgins, the Internet has become the symbol of an ideal for living; freedom of information, collective responsibility, equal access, plurality ofopinion. In short, nae rules.

The Net, at least until the big corporations work out how to make money from it, is all of these things. It’s a self-regulating system which links upwards of 15 million users worldwide with no Big Brother monitoring the flow of information. The only governing principle is ‘Netiquette’, an unwritten code of conduct which continually evolves to cope with new situations. Anyone who steps out of line can expect a bunch of messages from irate users.

When a small American law firm dumped the equivalent of millions of pages ofjunk mail onto the Net, users responded with a blizzard of hostile messages which forced them off the system by their sheer weight of numbers. Information overload has become the weapon the Net uses to police itself.

Dan O’Brien, comedy writer, journalist and self-confessed computer nerd, is staging his show Caught in the Net which aims to turn the normally solitary act of navigating through cyberspace into a shared experience. And he’s likely to make converts with his gee, wow enthusiasm for the subject. ‘The thing about the Net is the more people who get connected, the better it gets at distributing information,’ says O’Brien. ‘lt’s like a huge chain of people passing buckets of information down the line.’

16 The List 19—25 August 1994

The Fringe programme is available on the Net for the first time this year and O’Brien is planning to set up a bulletin board so users can post up their own show reviews. The increas- ingly computer-friendly Guardian has agreed to download its Edinburgh coverage onto the pages, so you’ll be able to read its reviews on screen before they’re published in the paper. But it’s the opportunity for ordinary individuals to tell others what they think about the Fringe which captures the real spirit of the Net. Everyone becomes a journalist and there are no editors sitting at their shoulder deciding what’s news and what isn’t. You decide what’s interest- ing.

‘One of the best things about the Net is that the whole thing can be as ghettoised as you want it to be,’ says O’Brien. In no other medium could

The lief: joining hands In cyberspace

you get a Star Trek convention the size of a town together to discuss their favourite subject.

In the second week, O’Brien intends to set up a ‘cyber cafe’ in the Pleasance courtyard which will give first-time cybernauts the chance to check out the ‘virtual Fringe’ for themselves. He’s also working on a live video link with another cyber cafe in San Francisco, the natural home of all this zany, techno-freakout stuff. ‘Basically the guys that run these million dollar companies are all old hippies and acid heads,’ says O’Brien.

Isn’t it time you logged on, tuned in and dropped one? C] Dan O’Brien: Caught in the Net, Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550 until 3 Sept, 12.15am, £5/4 (£4.50/£3.50). Dan O’Brien ’3 E-mail contact is dann y @ tse. cityscape. co. uk.

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